The President and Joe Wilson

Another President plagued by another Joe Wilson.  This is not President George W. Bush and the Ambassador Joe Wilson who exposed part of the rational for the Iraq War and then had his undercover CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame, outed.  This is President Barack Obama heckled by a Republican Congressman Joe Wilson during a speech to a joint session of Congress.  And who is Congressman Wilson?  Aldele Stan has posted “14 Things You Need to Know About Obama Hecker, Joe Wilson” on Alternet.  So here are a few.

1. Like his ideological counterpart known as Mr. The Plumber, his real name is not Joe. It’s Addison. His middle name is Graves. That makes him Addison Graves Wilson.

3. Wilson served as an aide to the late segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond, who is credited with conducting the longest filibuster in Senate history — against the 1957 civil rights bill.

5. A large percentage of Wilson’s campaign contributions come from the health sector, according to OpenSecrets.org. Over the course of his eight-year congressional career, Wilson has collected $414,000 from the health sector, topped only by contribution from what OpenSecrets calls the “finance, insurance & real estate” sector, from which he has gleaned $455,000.

7. Wilson is an adamant opponent of health care reform. As reported by The Hill, his last Tweet before his heckling performance at Obama’s speech read, “Happy Labor Day! Wonderful parade at Chapin, many people called out to oppose Obamacare which I assured them would be relayed tomorrow to DC.” (Wilson is currently the top trending topic on Twitter, and has nearly doubled his number of followers since his outburst.)

8. A military veteran whose health-care coverage is set for life, even after he retires from Congress, Wilson has “voted 11 times against health care for veterans in eight years, even as he voted ‘aye’ for the Iraq War…, ” according to Adam Weinstein, an uninsured Iraq-war veteran, writing at Newsweek’s The Gaggle. “He voted to cut veterans’ benefits─not his own─to make room for President George W. Bush’s tax cuts,” Weinstein says. “He repeatedly voted for budgets that slashed funding to the Veterans Administration and TRICARE. And perhaps most bizarrely, he refused — repeatedly — to approve Democratic-led initiatives that would have extended TRICARE coverage to all reservists and National Guard members, even though a disproportionate number of them have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — and many lost access to their civilian work benefits when they did so.”

10. Wilson served in the Reagan administration as deputy counsel in the energy department.

Unfortunately, South Carolinians seem to like him and agree with him.  The New York Times reports

“Yeah, it was rude, but somebody needed to say it,” said Susan Wahl, 41, a homemaker in this town of 800 outside Columbia. “Ordinary people can’t just get up and tell Obama he lied. He said something we all wanted to say.”

Maybe Ms. Wahl wanted to say it.  I wanted to say rude things as I watched Representative Eric Cantor pay attention to nothing but his Blackberry or iPhone or what ever he was playing with.  And I did cheer when President Obama called out opponents of health care reform asking them to talk rationally about ideas and not spread myths about the contents of the legislation.  But, Ms. Wahl and I were watching at home and Representative Wilson was on the floor of the Congress where, I believe, calling anyone a liar is outside the bounds of established decorum.  Here is more from the Times

Some Republicans noted that President George W. Bush drew derisive hoots from Democrats when he made his case for Social Security changes during his 2005 State of the Union address. But Mr. Wilson’s Republican colleagues overwhelmingly took the position that he had exceeded the bounds of Congressional decorum and that he took the right step by quickly admitting it.

“His behavior was inappropriate,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader.

Other Republicans said the outburst was also counterproductive, providing a political bonanza for Democrats, feeding the party’s story line that the August uproar over the health proposals was fed by boorish Republicans and orchestrated attacks.

It is difficult to see how this will play out in the long run.  Those of us outside of South Carolina can contribute to Rob Miller, the Democrat who is running against Mr. Wilson – and people can contribute to Wilson.  Miller has a tough road to victory.  As for the fate of health care reform, that is a wait and see also.

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